Aron Gonshor was interviewed at the Montreal Jewish Public Library on December 15, 2011. Aron is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, and an actor with Montreal's Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre. He was born in Poland after the second world war, and his family immigrated to Montreal in 1948, after Canada's immigration policy became more liberal.
In this interview, Aron describes growing up in Montreal's flourishing Yiddish-speaking community. His parents were members of the Bund, which met at the Montreal branch of the Workmen's Circle, and Aron grew up attending afternoon school there, at the Avrom Reisen Shul. He says that the Workmen's Circle became a home, and the community there became family, for many survivors of the war. Bund meetings, lectures and concerts in Yiddish allowed survivors to live out their lives in a way they were used to, and created a very full, animated atmosphere. To Aron, enveloped in this environment from childhood, speaking and performing in Yiddish was as simple as breathing the air.
Aron also discusses his involvement with Yiddish theatre. He describes the early days of Yiddish theatre in Montreal, when Soviet-trained actress Dora Wasserman began to give theatre classes to youths at the Jewish Public Library, and traces the theatre's development over time. He talks about traveling to Vienna with the theatre company to perform in Yiddish there, and giving a particularly emotional performance of The Dybbuk. He reflects that the visit to Austria gave the whole theatre company the understanding that they have a responsibility, as Yiddish speakers, to preserve the legacy of Jewish culture. Aron urges the importance of knowing your own history, and speaks about the fulfillment of conveying that history to others so that the next generations can build on it.
To learn more about the Wexler Oral History Project, visit: http://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/tell-your-story